What to Do After Disappointing HSC Trial Exam Results – Science Ready

Underperforming in the HSC Chemistry and Physics Trial Exams can be a distressing experience. However, there's a structured and comprehensive way to turn this challenge into an opportunity for growth. By employing effective recovery strategies and the concept of aggregation of marginal gains, students can set themselves up for success in the final exams.

Part 1

In part 1 of this video series, we discuss the importance of reviewing your exam papers and using them to develop a strategic and tailored study plan.

Part 2

In part 2, we discuss how to minimise silly mistakes, manage time better during exams and stress managing during this critical exam preparation period.


Underperforming in the NSW HSC Chemistry and Physics Trial Exams can indeed be disconcerting, but rather than viewing it as a final verdict, it should be seen as an opportunity for growth. A strategic approach focusing on the principle of "aggregation of marginal gains" can set you on a path to success in the final exams. Even small 1% changes can lead to significant improvements.

Here's how you can turn the setback of underperforming into a stepping stone for success in the actual HSC exam:

1. Remind Yourself That You're Only Halfway There

School assessment marks only make up 50% of your final HSC mark for Chemistry and Physics. While you may have spent most of the year sitting school assessments: theory, practical exams, depth studies and trial exam, your performance in the final HSC exam will make a massive difference in your final result and ATAR.

In our experience, we have mentored many students who received HSC exam marks that were much higher than their school assessment marks. In fact, many students were able to attain a Band 6 result in HSC Chemistry and Physics despite receiving disappointing trial exam results.

2. Review Your Exam Papers

While it is disappointing and frustrating to review an exam paper that you have done poorly in, it is very important to do this. Avoiding this process will only stop you from improving and doing better in the final HSC exam.

Understanding where and why you fell short is the foundation of future improvement. Here's how to identify your weak areas.

Meticulously go through your exam papers, paying attention to incorrect answers, partially correct answers, unattempted questions, and categorising mistakes into content, procedural, or careless errors.


Did I get the question incorrect or lose marks because

  • I didn't cover the topic during preparation?
  • I didn't write down everything expected in the marking criteria?
  • it was genuinely a difficult question for which I knew the content but just couldn't do?
  • it was a due to a calculation error (silly mistake)
  • I read the question wrong?
  • I missed the question?
  • I ran out of time in the exam to attempt the question properly?


For these questions and errors which you identify, document the topics in Chemistry or Physics where you struggled.

You may also want to consider what types of questions you struggled with. What verb(s) did the question use?  

Remember to do this not just for the trial exam, but also for other school assessments if applicable.

Creating a Strategic Study Plan

Outline smart and realistic goals for both Chemistry and Physics. If your issue is motivation, then there is no other way around improvement other than developing your discipline and ability to focus. When you are ready, make sure to allocate time to revisit weak areas, practice problems, and review concepts.

Your study plan should be tailored to the areas of weakness you identified from reviewing your exam papers. For most of you, your study plan will be targeted towards multiple areas of weakness and sources of marks lost.

This table outlines some of the strategies you can employ to tackle each area of weakness.



Ask for help

Underperforming in exams doesn't mean you're alone on your journey to improvement in NSW HSC Chemistry and Physics. Your teachers, tutors, and other mentors have the experience and knowledge to provide critical assistance. They can pinpoint specific areas where you may be struggling, such as challenging concepts in organic chemistry or particular physics phenomena, and provide tailored guidance to help you grasp it more fully.

This professional support goes beyond academic assistance; it also includes emotional encouragement and reassurance, as mentors understand your educational journey and can boost your confidence and motivation. Many educators also offer supplementary learning materials, including additional exercises, readings, or software, to further assist you in your studies. Engaging with mentors demonstrates a proactive approach to your education, turning trial performance into a triumph for the final exams.

Utilise Online Resources

Leveraging online resources tailored to the NSW HSC curriculum can be a game-changer. The digital age offers a multitude of platforms that can aid in your recovery process. Whether it's identifying gaps in your understanding, practicing specific problem-solving skills, or exploring complex concepts through interactive simulations, there are online resources designed to cater to your unique needs. YouTube tutorials, online forums, and specialised educational websites often provide clear explanations, expert insights, and personalised feedback.

These can help you pinpoint your mistakes and learn from them, providing you with tailored support to overcome your previous setbacks. Embracing these resources with an open and diligent mind can significantly enhance your comprehension and confidence, setting you on a path to success for your next examination

Manage Stress

Bouncing back from a less-than-satisfactory performance in your HSC Chemistry and Physics exams isn't just about academic strategies; it's also about managing your stress levels.

Stress can significantly impede your ability to learn and perform. Developing personalised stress management strategies is vital in regaining control over your academic journey. These might include mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises, or setting manageable study goals.

Regularly taking breaks and engaging in activities that you enjoy can also alleviate stress.

Creating a supportive environment by connecting with friends, family, or mentors who understand what you're going through can make a tangible difference. Remember, managing stress isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, so experiment to find what works best for you.

Stay Healthy

Health and well-being play a crucial role in your ability to bounce back from underwhelming exam performance. Your body and mind need to be in optimal condition for effective learning and retaining information. Ensuring a balanced diet will fuel your body with the necessary nutrients to stay focused and energised during your study sessions.

Regular exercise, even if it's just a brisk walk or a short home workout, can boost your mood and clear your mind, making you more receptive to new information.

Don't underestimate the importance of proper sleep either; adequate rest enhances memory and cognitive functions, key factors in academic success. Being conscious of these aspects and incorporating them into your daily routine will create a solid foundation for improving your performance in the HSC exams.


Recovery from underperforming in your NSW HSC Chemistry and Physics Trial Exams is achievable with a focused and strategic approach. By meticulously analysing your performance and embracing the concept of aggregation of marginal gains, you align yourself with a pathway to continuous improvement. It's a journey that transforms challenges into opportunities, setting you on the road to triumph in your final exams.

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